Students ages 16 and older receive COVID-19 vaccine


Emma Colacino and Jiya Chatterjee

Many Upper Division (UD) students have begun to receive doses of coronavirus vaccines since April 6, when residents of New York ages 16 and older became eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to New York State’s official COVID-19 vaccine website, 25.5% of all New York residents are fully vaccinated, while 38.6% have received one dose.

Anything a student or employee can do to minimize time out or minimize the severity of the virus makes the school a safer place for everyone, Head of school Dr. Tom Kelly wrote. Students are allowed to “Zoom in” to school if their vaccine appointment conflicts with their classes.  “And while we encourage those eligible to get vaccinated, I ask that we remain respectful of those members of our family who, for good reason, are not being vaccinated,” he wrote. 

With the exception of singing being reintroduced into the Music program, many of the school’s COVID safety protocols will not change as students become vaccinated, Kelly wrote. However, the school will now have at least one athletic competition for as many varsity athletic teams as possible and the school will be decreasing restrictions on participating in private after school activities in an attempt to encourage students to spend more time outdoors. 

Chloe Trentalancia (10), who received the Pfizer vaccine, said the experience was smooth and effortless. “The vaccine itself took one second to get,” she said. Once Trentalancia was vaccinated, she was asked to sit in the waiting room for a 15 minute observation period to ensure that she didn’t experience serious side effects. 

Because Hannah Moss (10) has asthma, she received the vaccine before other 16-year-olds. She got vaccinated at the Elmhurst Hospital on February 16 after her family friend found an appointment online, she said.  

Unlike Trentalancia, Moss said receiving her first dose was a long process. “I had an 8:45 a.m. appointment and when I got there, there was an hour long line to register and the registration took about another hour,” she said. “From there it probably took 30 minutes to actually get the shot.”

Like Moss, Ahaana Shrivastava (12) has a pre-existing condition and received the Pfizer vaccine on March 19 at Yankee stadium, she said. “Inside the stadium, it was a very well-oiled machine,” she said. “But it was definitely strange that the first time going back to the stadium in a long time was to get a vaccine.”

Upon hearing that she was eligible to receive the vaccine, Sydney Pruzan (11) immediately attempted to find an appointment online. “I was checking the website late at night, and there were not a lot of appointments at first, and then at midnight all of a sudden a bunch of appointments came out,” she said. Pruzan was able to schedule her first dose at the Javits Center for the Pfizer vaccine. 

Bailey Hecht (10), who received the Pfizer vaccine at the Walgreens near her home, was excited to receive the vaccine, she said. “I want to hang out with my friends like we used to, and [getting vaccinated] is the first step to making this happen.” 

Shrivastava said vaccination was the first tangible move towards returning to how life was before COVID-19. “For so long, things had sort of just been stationary for most people, and nothing had really changed for the better and the vaccine, especially towards the end of 2020, was sort of just up in the air,” she said. “But actually being able to get the vaccine just felt like that was the first really big step towards returning to life.”

Elijah Shaham (12) chose to receive the vaccine because of the decreased health risk and because there are no downsides to doing so, he said. “I’m not super concerned about the virus as a whole — the effects of it aren’t too great on people of our age group — but I know it can still damage your lungs permanently, so I wanted to do everything I can to stop myself from getting it,” he said. 

While Shrivastava wanted to be vaccinated to spend time with her friends without a mask, she also felt that she had a role to play when it came to reopening New York and the world as a whole, she said. “In the same way that our teachers have done everything they can to keep us safe by getting the vaccine, I feel like it’s my responsibility to my peers at Horace Mann, my teachers, and everyone I interact with on a daily basis, to keep them as safe as possible.”

Moss still plans on adhering to similar precautions as she did before getting the vaccine, she said. “Maybe I’ll hang out with one or two friends without masks now if they’re vaccinated too, but I don’t want to put anyone at risk because [the vaccine] is not 100% effective at stopping the spread,” she said. “I’m not planning to go to any large events.”

Even though more students are getting vaccinated by the week, English teacher Adam Casdin hopes that people will continue to be careful. “Social distancing at school has been a challenge for students, but my takeaway from the last six months is that masks work,” he said. “As long as we all keep wearing our masks, we’ll be okay.”